On Oct. 20, 2011, Libyan rebels ambushed a convoy carrying their deposed dictator, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi. Footage of Qaddafi’s capture has made its way onto the Internet, and people all over the world can see the once permanent, seemingly omnipotent tyrant being dragged bloody, disheveled and shirtless to his demise at the hands of his own people.
President Barack Obama deserves credit for answering the calls of the Libyan people and the governments of Britain and France to intervene in the conflict. It is unquestionable that without the support of the U.S. military, the rebellion would have been crushed in March at the Second Battle of Benghazi.
However, I find it very disconcerting that the mainstream media is using Obama’s adventure in Libya as a way to discredit the Iraq War. As MSNBC’s Chuck Todd put it on Thursday’s The Daily Rundown, “It was a trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives to topple a dictator in Iraq. It’s a billion dollars and no U.S. lives to topple a dictator in Libya. That’s a pretty stark contrast.”
And, as Abe Greenwald of Commentary Magazine noted, “It’s a “pretty superficial one too.” If we are going to break down the effectiveness of a war by a “dollar-to-dictator” ratio, then why are we only looking at President George Bush and Saddam Hussein? Yes, the Iraq War cost almost $1 trillion and 4,476 American lives. However, President Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to topple totalitarians in Tokyo, Rome, and Berlin cost over $5 trillion (adjusted for inflation) and 418,000 lives.
It is also important to note that the road to a free Libya took us through Baghdad. Qaddafi only decided to abandon his weapons of mass destruction program after he saw the Coalition of the Willing shatter Saddam’s 25-year dictatorship in only three weeks. It was clear to Qaddafi that a post-9/11 America would not live at the mercy of an outlaw dictator like him. Without the efforts of President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to rid the Middle East of Saddam Hussein, both he and Muammar al-Qaddafi would still be sitting comfortably on their gold-plated thrones, and quite possibly with caches of WMDs strapped to their belts.
However, if one has any doubt as to whether the Iraq War and the uprising in Libya are tied together, they should listen to the words of the Libyan people. As Qaddafi’s warplanes bombarded rebel positions, Qaddafi soldier-turned rebel Nasr Ali pleaded, “Bring Bush! Make a no fly zone, bomb the planes.” In 2009, the world watched as Iran brutally suppressed widespread protests after the fraudulent reelection of ultraconservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the Libyan freedom fighters did not want to be another casualty of American inaction.
Even though the Qaddafi regime is finished, the Libyan people may still suffer because of American squeamishness. An advantage of a boots-on-the-ground strategy is that you can control the situation after the fall of the dictator. Iraq now has a developing, if flawed, parliamentary democracy. What will rise out of the rubble of Qaddafi’s Libya is anybody’s guess.